Keith Jones

Dick Jerardi is an award winning sports writer as well as a radio/television host and commentator, and is arguably best known for covering the sport of Horse Racing.

Though his work as a journalist at The Philadelphia Daily News, Dick has covered every Triple Crown race since 1987 (he is a five-time winner of theRed Smith Award for Kentucky Derby coverage). Dick Jerardi famously chronicled the remarkable Smarty Jones during the Triple Crown chase of 2004 s the Thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for trainer John Servis.

Since 2011 Jerardi has been an on-air analyst for the live television broadcasts of The Pennsylvania Derby from Parx Racing, most recently for NBC Spots Philadelphia.

Many fans know of Dick Jerardi’s work from the long running Let’s Go Racing TV program where he works alongside fellow Parx Hall of Fame members Keith Jones and producer Bruce Casella.

Dick also continues to provide color commentary for the live broadcasts of Penn State basketball.


TIZ THE LAW DOMINATES BELMONT STAKES

By Dick Jerardi

The last year a New York bred won a Triple Crown race, a Pennsylvania bred won two the following year. That would be Funny Cide in 2003 followed by Smarty Jones in 2004. Each won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

After New York bred Tiz the Law dominated the Belmont Stakes, maybe we can look forward to a Pennsylvania bred winning a Triple Crown race or two or three in 2021.

That is for then. For now, Tiz the Law is the horse alive for a Triple Crown that will play out over 15 weeks in this bizarre year where just about everything has changed. The Belmont was first, followed by the Derby in September and Preakness in October. It will be different, but the horses are running everywhere again and this is a very good thing.

Tiz the Law’s trainer Barclay Tagg grew up in Abington. He is a Penn State graduate. Won his first race at old Liberty Bell Park in 1972. Has never had a big stable as evidenced by his never winning as many as 100 races or having as many as 500 starters in any one year.

Tagg is your classic old-school grinder who typically trains anywhere from 20 to 25 horses at a time. He has had very few opportunities to train horses for owners with deep pockets. Tiz the Law cost just $110,000 when he was purchased as a yearling in 2018.

Tiz the Law is now 5-for-6 lifetime and really should be 6-for-6. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong last November in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. Still, the colt finished third, beaten by just three-quarters of a length.

Now a winner of four stakes, including three Grade I stakes, Tiz the Law is clearly the most accomplished 3-year-old in the country. The Aug. 8 Travers at Saratoga likely will be next. So the midsummer Derby in 2020 is a prep for the actual Derby in September, yet another strange occurrence in a year filled with them.

Tiz the Law was the only Grade I winner in this Belmont, run at a mile and an eighth instead of the normal mile and a half. The competition will be much tougher in September as several trainers with top 3-year-olds passed on the Belmont because they are pointing specifically for the Derby. Other late-developing 3-year-olds could also be a factor by September.

Parx-based Mischevious Alex finished fourth of five in the Grade I Woody Stephens Stakes, the second race on the Belmont Stakes Day card. The Parx Juvenile, Swale and Gotham winner just did not have the same punch he had in those races.

It had been 100 days since the colt’s last race. When the
New York schedule finally came out, trainer John Servis said: “then I really started bearing down on him. I don’t know if I really needed to. He had a pretty good bottom in him.’’

So, Servis said, he is just going to put a line through the race.

“Right now, I’m probably going to go in the (July 18)
Haskell,’’ Servis said. “I don’t know where else to go. I want to try him two turns, I really do. If he doesn’t run any good, then we’ll regroup and go from there.’’

If Mischevious Alex does run well in the Haskell, the colt will have more than enough points to get into the Derby. Stay tuned.

PARX REOPENS MONDAY JUNE 22

By Dick Jerardi

So it will be 104 days between races at Parx. The waiting was hard; the not knowing when it would end was even harder.

It was March 10 when Little Neck won the last race at Parx. It will be June 22 when the next winner emerges from the first race that day.

Could Parx have opened a few weeks earlier? Say like June 1, two days before Belmont Park. Probably.

But, as PTHA president Sal DeBunda pointed out in his recent video announcement, horse racing is a regulated sport. Nobody can go any faster than the regulators tell them to go. Government often moves in unpredictable ways.

Why Pennsylvania took several weeks longer than New York to give the green light to race tracks isn’t clear, but it is also no longer relevant.

We can’t go back in time so it is time to look forward. Bruce Casella, Keith Jones and I look forward to taping “Let’s Go Racing’’ again, with this Saturday’s show a look ahead to the Parx reopening and the Belmont Stakes which will be run without fans.

As Sal pointed out, there are still some questions that will take some time to answer.

Will there be a Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion this year? The Pa. Derby’s traditional spot on the late September calendar would be between the rescheduled Kentucky Derby the first Saturday of September and the rescheduled Preakness the first Saturday of October, not a good fit. Could it be used as a Derby prep in August? Is there money in the purse account for it this year?

When will the Parx casino reopen? Slot machine revenue that fuels purses is critical.

When the casino does reopen, how quickly will patrons return and what will the slots handle be in relation to what it was before the shutdown?

When will fans be able to return to Parx for racing?

Delaware Park opens this Wednesday with fans and protocols. So that day with fans for more tracks is coming.

So the seemingly endless wait is nearly over. Racing at Parx will be Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. There will be no August break.

There will be a Pa. Day at the Races, date to be determined soon. There will be Parx-based Mischievious Alex running in the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day for trainer John Servis.

The best news of all, of course, is owners, trainers, jockeys and Parx track employees can all get back to earning some money. The trainers and their help, of course, never stopped working. The owners never stopped paying bills. Many of the jocks were still there every morning exercising horses. And those horses will finally get a chance to run again.

URIAH ST. LEWIS JUST WINS MONEY

When you hear people at the track talk about owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis, they all pretty much say the same thing. Well, he doesn’t win many races.

That is not untrue, but it misses the point, his point.

“My wife always says you can’t go to the bank with races, you go to the bank with money,’’ St. Lewis said. “I see a lot of guys win a hundred races and they’re all broke.’’

That is exactly the same philosophy most successful bettors have. It’s not about how many winners you have; it’s about how much money you win.

St. Lewis proved his philosophy works when the amazing Discreet Lover, a Parx Hall of Famer, won the 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The horse, purchased for $10,000, has won $1,450,685. He was 40-1, 50-1, 70-1, 80-1 as St. Lewis kept putting him in graded stakes races. Discreet Lover wasn’t winning, but he was picking up checks until finally winning the big one in his 44th start.

St. Lewis is using a similar philosophy with Forewarned, a horse he purchased for $40,000 in December 2018, parlaying some of that Discreet Lover cash.

Forewarned was solid in two years racing in Ohio, even winning a state-bred stake. The horse has been even better for St. Lewis running in races like the Whitney,Woodward and Cigar Mile. St. Lewis took the horse back to Ohio last October to win a $150,000 state-bred stakes. Last Saturday, Forewanted finished third at 59-1 behind 2019 Travers winner Code of Honor in the Westchester at Belmont Park.

When asked if he is going to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup with Forewarned this year, St. Lewis laughed and said that race was reserved for Discreet Lover.

Discreet Lover made his first start in more than a year when he ran in the Blame States at Churchill Downs on May 23. He was 101-1 and finished 11th. But let’s see how the year plays out before making any pronouncements.

As for Forewarned, the now 5-year-old horse has won $293,420 since that $40,000 purchase. The Suburban could be next. The Met Mile is possible.

And there is Adventist, yet another St. Lewis success story. The horse has won $258,590 since coming to the trainer’s barn a year and a half ago. Adventist won the 2019 Greenwood Cup at Parx after going off at 50-1. The horse is entered in a stakes Thursday at Belmont Park against 2019 Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston.

“I buy horses, try to keep them sound so you don’t have to spend all your money on vets,’’ St. Lewis said.

St. Lewis now has 10 horses at Belmont Park and 18 more at Parx as everyone awaits the return of live racing. And more Uriah St. Lewis longshots keep getting some piece of the purse or, in some cases, all of it.

It was a good first few days for Parx horses as Belmont Park opened on June 3. Powerful Venezuela won a $10,000 claimer for trainer Harold Wyner and jockey Ruben Silvera. Helene Jacqueline was second in a maiden special for trainer Richie Vega, Zoomer third in a $40,000 claimer for Jamie Ness and Pategory One a better-than-it-looks seventh at 57-1 in a New York bred maiden race for Carlos Guerrero.

JUNE RETURN AT PARX

By Dick Jerardi

I have been in the prediction business pretty much my entire adult life. My process has been altered through the years, but a few basics are unchanged: try to compile as much information as possible before arriving at a conclusion.

Trying to predict anything during this pandemic, much less when racing will return at Parx, has required me to alter even those basics. Hard to come to a conclusion when the information consists of so many moving parts.

After being on a call last week with several representatives from Gov. Wolf’s office as well as three representatives of the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania, I can say that the governor’s office clearly understands that horse racing can return safely in the state.

My role, as somebody who has covered racing on the national scene for 35 years and has visited every major race track in the country, was to explain how safely racing was conducted in Florida and Arkansas all winter and spring, how racing is now being conducted safely in Maryland, Kentucky, Texas and California among other states and how racing will be conducted safely during the first week of June in New York and Ohio.

I was also able to explain how the race track world works, that there are actually far more people working on the backstretch in the morning than will be needed to conduct racing in the afternoon, that since everything will be outside, it will be quite easy to comply with protocols that have worked so well at all the other tracks.

When I got off the call, I felt the governor’s representatives had a much better understanding of how and why live racing should return as soon as possible.

When Bucks County goes to yellow on June 5, I got every sense that the governor’s office would approve having live racing return to Parx without fans.

From the start of the pandemic, PTHA president Sal DeBunda and executive director Mike Ballezzi have been working long hours behind the scenes with the horsemen and for the horsemen. That remains true now during the final stages before reopening, with Sal and Mike trying to get live racing back as soon as possible while talking regularly to their members, officials from the governor’s office, the Pennsylvania Racing Commission and Parx administrators, all of whom are playing a part in the restart.

If I am right about what the governor’s office is going to do and I think I am, once the racing commission officially approves the track reopening, it would then be up to Parx management when live racing would actually begin.

The Parx racing office needs to be re-assembled, a condition book must be written and distributed so entries can be taken and racing can resume.

My guess is live racing returns on a Monday. Could it be as soon as June 8? Probably a longshot because there are so many moving parts.

The 15th is more feasible, with June 22 being about the latest opening I could envision.

So we are talking somewhere around 100 days from the time the track closed for live racing to when it is going to reopen, a time that must seem like an eternity to everybody who has mounting expenses and no revenue. I wish I could make the time go faster or be able to say with certainty the exact date when there will be racing again at Parx. I can’t do that, but I can say we are much closer to the end than the beginning.

HORSES RETURNING TO PARX

By Dick Jerardi

It was not quite an invasion over Memorial Day weekend, but the Parx stable gate was quite busy as the first of what will be hundreds of horses that had been stabled elsewhere were permitted into the barn area to join the horses that have remained in training at the track during the shutdown.

It is not quite a return to racing, but it is a start, with more stalls filling up. When racing will return remains unclear. Bucks County moves into the state’s yellow zone in early June so it is getting closer. New York racing returns June 3 at Belmont Park. Live racing returns to Delaware Park June 17, pending state approval. Looks like they are close at Laurel Park in Maryland, but nothing definite yet. Racing returns to Belterra Park in Cincinnati June 4.

Gotham Stakes winner Mischevious Alex will be returning from South Florida to Parx for trainer John Servis to get ready to run in the 7-furlong, Grade I Woody Stephens June 20 at Belmont Park. If all goes well there, Servis may look at the Indiana Derby. Depending on that result, Servis may also look at the Kentucky Derby in September.

Yes, the Triple Crown has been reconfigured with the longest race now the shortest and the last race now the first, but an actual schedule gives us all hope that something approaching normal is closer.

In addition to Mischevious Alex, owned locally by Chuck Zacney and Glenn Bennett, there is a chance for a second horse with Parx connections to be a player in the Triple Crown races.

Ny Traffic, owned by John Fanelli, Zacney and Bennett, just keeps getting better. The horse, who made the first three starts of his career at Parx, finished third in the Risen Star Stakes, second in the Louisiana Derby and, last Saturday, second to unbeaten and highly-touted Maxfield in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. His Beyer figures have gone from an 82 to an 89 and now to a 95.

Was nice to see 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Discreet Lover back to the races for owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis. The horse, who had not raced in 13 months, ran 11th of 12 at 102-1 in the Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs. Hopefully, now that Discreet Lover has had a race, there will be better days ahead.

AN ADDITION TO THE BEST AT PARX LIST

I knew I was going to miss a few on my list of the best horses to run at Parx since the track opened in 1974.

I forgot the 2016 Pennsylvania Derby that featured the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Nyquist and Exaggerator.

The horses did not run well at Parx, with Nyquist sixth and Exaggerator seventh. But they both had wonderful careers. Nyquist, the 2015 2-year-old champion, earned $5.1 million and won five Grade I races, including the Derby, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Florida Derby. Exaggerator earned $3.5 million and won three Grade I races – the Preakness, Santa Anita Derby and Haskell. He finished second in the Kentucky Derby.

TRACKS OPENING AGAIN. WHY IS PENNSYLVANIA DIFFERENT?

By Dick Jerardi​

So, what exactly is going on? That is the question everybody on the Parx backstretch is asking themselves and anybody who will listen.
Gulfstream Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Oaklawn Park never closed. Gulfstream and Oaklawn have casinos that closed, but they kept on racing without fans.

Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, Charles Town and Golden Gate Fields opened last week. Laurel Park is scheduled to open this week. Belmont Park will open in two weeks. The Ohio tracks have been given the green light to open. No fans, but betting and a chance for the stakeholders to earn a living.

It has been proved that it is safe to conduct racing without fans. It is quite understandable why some of the tracks in areas hit hardest by Covid-19 waited the longest. But if they can run at Belmont Park, next to the hardest hit area of the country, there is no reason they can’t run in Pennsylvania.

For some reason, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who is trying to do a very difficult job under unprecedented circumstances and has always erred on the side of safety, has lumped race tracks in with concert halls and casinos, unable to open until the all clear is given everywhere. Racing, of course, is conducted outside in a huge area. It is a very different setting from casinos and concert halls and the successful models are there for how it can be done safely.

Parx has some specific issues that other tracks with casinos do not have. The purse structure is incredibly dependent on slot machine revenue as mandated by state law. Slot revenue accounts for 85 percent of the purse money at Parx while pari-mutuel handle accounts for 15 percent.
That said, there is money in the purse account from when racing stopped in mid-March. So, even without the Parx casino open, racing could begin again around June 1.

It is unclear when casinos will reopen and the slot machine revenue turned back on. Given social distancing, it is likely even when the Parx casino does open that there will be considerably less slot play. The purses may have to be cut until all the slot play that was there before returns. Trying to predict when that might happen is risky, just like trying to predict anything with Covid-19.

One thing is not debatable: racing can be conducted safely at Parx and the other tracks in the state. Owners, trainers, jockeys and so many other race track workers have been affected negatively by the shutdown. It was a national shared sacrifice that most rational people understood.

But where there is a business that can be safely reopened, there really is no reason not to reopen that business. Horse racing in Pennsylvania is one of those businesses. Hopefully, the powers that be in state government can see what is happening in surrounding states and make it happen here, the sooner the better.

BEST HORSES TO RUN AT KEYSTONE/PHILADELPHIA PARK/PARX

By Dick Jerardi

With so much time to think, I was thinking about the best horses ever to run at Parx since 1974 when the track opened as Keystone. My criteria was subjective, but included national impact, divisional championships, Grade I wins, graded stakes wins, Hall of Fame induction, overall talent and longevity. Five Horses of the Year and three Hall of Famers have run at the track. I came up with 40 horses and three Also Eligibles (one as an entry). May have missed a few and left off a few that had great racing records, but did not have graded stakes wins. Here is my top 10, followed by the best of the rest in no particular order.

1. Spectacular Bid. Finished off his 2-year-old season with a win in the Heritage Stakes on Nov. 11, 1978 at Keystone. It was his ninth race that year. Think about that and how differently the top horses were campaigned then. Bid won five stakes and three Grade I races as a 2-year-old. Won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before somehow losing the Belmont Stakes. Perfect season in 1980 when he was Horse of the Year, going 9-for-9 with five Grade I wins while setting track records in California, winning in Illinois on his way back east and capping his career with a walkover in the Woodward because nobody wanted to run their horse against the great Bid. Was 2-year-old and 3-year-old champion, as well as champion older horse. Won 26 of 30 starts and is in the Hall of Fame.

2. California Chrome. Ran one of the worst races of his life when sixth in the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby. That was an anomaly for the two-time Horse of the Year (2014, 2016) who won the Derby, Preakness, Dubai World Cup and Santa Anita Derby. A lock Hall of Famer as soon as he is a finalist, Chrome won $14.7 million. Was named 3-year-old champion and champion older horse.

3. Smarty Jones. Only reason Smarty is not No. 2 on this list is longevity, but those nine races from November 2003 (first two races came at Philadelphia Park) to June 2004 will live with all of us forever. The Rebel, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby sweep and the $5 million bonus, the biggest margin in Preakness history, the incredible effort in the Belmont Stakes, 3-year-old champion. I thought Smarty was a better horse than Chrome and I know he would have been a Triple Crown winner had the jockeys let him cruise on the Belmont lead like they did American Pharoah and Justify.

4. My Juliet. Won 24 of 36 races. Champion sprinter in 1976, the great filly ran Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes off his feet in that year’s Vosburgh. Was 4-for-4 at Keystone, her home track, including a win in the 1975 Cotillion. Won at tracks from California to New York. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019.

5. Gun Runner. Finished second in the 2016 Pa. Derby. Had an incredible 4-year-old season, including wins in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Woodward, Whitney and Stephen Foster. Was 2017 Horse of the Year and champion older horse. Finished off his career with a win in the Pegasus Invitational and earned almost $16 million.

6. Black Tie Affair. Started his career at Keystone on Sept. 28, 1988 for trainer Walter Reese. Raced seven times at Keystone. Was later sold and raced all over before a tremendous finish to his career in 1991 which culminated with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Won 18 of 45 races and was named 1991 Horse of the Year and champion older horse.

7. Ashado. Won the 2004 Cotillion. Finished her 20-race career with seven Grade I wins, including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Was 3-year-old filly champion. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

8. Dave’s Friend. A little personal privilege. My all-time favorite horse was 3-for-3 at Keystone. If he had been better managed, he would be known as one of the great sprinters in history. Won 35 of 76 starts with 16 seconds and 8 thirds racing from 1978 to 1986. Ran at an incredible 21 different race tracks _ Pimlico, Keystone, Monmouth, Belmont, Bowie, Laurel, Meadowlands, Aqueduct, Suffolk, Churchill, Louisiana Downs, Ak-Sar-Ben, Detroit, Thistledown, Hawthorne, Hollywood, Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Turf Paradise, Darby Downs and Fairgrounds.

9. Broad Brush. Won the legendary 1986 Pennsylvania Derby, going from first at the top of the stretch to last after bolting to the outside fence and then back to first. Won four Grade I stakes, including the Santa Anita Handicap and Wood Memorial. Won $2.6 million and nine graded stakes.

10. Havre de Grace. Won the 2010 Cotillion, holding off her great rival Blind Luck in the stretch. Beat the boys in the 2011 Woodward at Saratoga and was named 2011 Horse of the Year.

Here are 30 more in no particular order with comments. It’s a fascinating list and tells you how many wonderful horses have run at the track in its 46 years.
11. Songbird (Won 2016 Cotillion and lost by an inch in the BC Distaff, the first loss of her career. Named 2-year-old and 3-year-old filly champion).

12. Untapable (Won 2014 Cotillion before winning BC Distaff. Was 3-year-old filly champion).

13. Gallant Bob (Champion sprinter won 23 races and nearly $500,000 when that was a big number).

14. Bayern (set track record in 2014 Pa. Derby before winning BC Classic).

15. Revidere (won 1976 Cotillion, three Grade I stakes and was 3-year-old filly champion).

16. Smarten (won first Pa. Derby in 1979 and three other Derbies).

17. Sacahuista (DQ’d from first in the 1987 Cotillion before winning Ruffian, Spinster and BC Distaff. Was champion 3-year-old filly).

18. Will Take Charge (Won 2013 Pa. Derby after winning Travers. Named 3-year-old champion).

19. Temperence Hill (Finished fifth in 1980 Pa. Derby. Won Arkansas Derby, Belmont, Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Super Derby. Was 3-year-old champion).

20. Wayward Lass (won the 1980 Schuylkill Stakes at Keystone. Won the Mother Goose and placed in four other Grade I stakes). Champion 3-year-old filly.

21. Jaywalk (won 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Named 2-year-old filly champion).

22. Cathryn Sophia (won 2016 Kentucky Oaks).

23. Discreet Lover (won 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup).

24. Imperial Hint (won four Grade I sprint stakes in New York).

25. Formal Gold (finished second in 1996 Pa. Derby. Won four graded stakes in 1997 and compiled the highest Beyer speed figures of the 1990s).

26. Macho Uno (won 2001 Pa. Derby. Named 2-year-old champion in 2000).

27. Roamin Rachel (Won seven stakes, including one Grade I, one Grade II and one Grade III).

28. Xtra Heat (Ran once at Philadelphia Park in 2000. Won 26 races, including 25 stakes).

29. Plum Pretty (Won 2011 Cotillion and Ky. Oaks).

30. Jostle (won 2000 Cotillion, Alabama and CCA Oaks).

31. Lost Code (second in 1987 Pa. Derby. Won Derbies in four states. Also won Oaklawn Handicap and Massachusetts Handicap).

32. Summer Squall (won 1990 Pa. Derby after winning the Preakness, Blue Grass and Hopeful).

33. Frosted (won 2015 Pa. Derby. Also won the Wood Memorial, Whitney and Met Mile).

34. McKinzie (won 2018 Pa. Derby and three other Grade I stakes).

35. Dainty Dotsie (won 20 of 24 races, including 10 stakes).

36. Monomoy Girl (Perfect season ended when DQ’d in 2018 Cotillion. Won BC Distaff and 3-year-old filly championship).

37. Midnight Bisou (Placed first in 2018 Cotillion. Perfect season ended with a second in 2019 BC Distaff. Named older filly and mare champion).

38. Close Hatches (Won 2013 Cotillion and four other Grade I stakes).

39. Blind Luck (Finished second in 2010 Cotillion. Won six Grade I stakes, including Kentucky Oaks and Alabama, Named 3-year-old filly champion).

40. Abel Tasman (Finished second in the 2017 Cotillion. Won six Graded stakes, including the Kentucky Oaks. Was 3-year-old filly champion.

AE Ben’s Cat, Pure Sensation (tie). You could set your clocks for Labor Day every year for the last decade, wake up, go the track and watch either Ben’s Cat or Pure Sensation win the Turf Monster.

AE Flatter (the great Pa. bred steeplechase champion began his career with five flat races at Keystone in 1982).

CLOSEST THING TO DERBY DAY

By Dick Jerardi

There were no spectators. No roses. No “My Old Kentucky Home.’’

But, for one glorious afternoon and early evening, on this first Saturday of May, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. became America’s track, racing fans, serious and casual, gathering around their televisions to celebrate Derby Day.

The record handle for Arkansas Derby Day, with 60,000 fans, was $19 million. This year, with no fans, but with bettors staring at computer screens and punching in bets around the country, the handle was $40 million. The players were ready to fire on Derby Day, even without “the’’ Derby.

It was not like being at Churchill Downs in Louisville, but there was still a connection. I’ve been to the Derby 33 times, once as a fan and 32 times to cover it. The day and the race never disappoint. Don’t know what it will be like in September, if huge crowds are a thing by then. We can hope.

Meanwhile, I was dazzled watching the races at the track Smarty Jones put on the national map. I was especially dazzled by what the man who has won more Triple Crown races than any trainer put on the track as afternoon was turning to evening.

There had been so few major 3-year-old preps that 22 horses were entered for the Arkansas Derby so the race was split into divisions for the first time since 1960. And that man, Bob Baffert, had the favorite in each division. Both entered the gate unbeaten. Each remains unbeaten. It was the Baffert-Baffert sweep with Charlatan and Nadal and neither race was ever in doubt.

Charlatan is just raw speed. In three starts, he has not been behind a horse at any stage. After blowing away the Arkansas Derby by 6 lengths, Charlatan has now won his races by a combined 22 lengths. That is domination.

It is true Charlatan was slowing down in the final eighth, but it really didn’t matter as he had already run the competition into a state of exhaustion.

Baffert has been trying to teach Charlatan to relax in his morning workouts. The lessons are not taking yet. The colt just desires to go so Baffert instructed jockey Martin Garcia to ride him like he was on Bayern, the colt that set the Parx 9-furlong record when he won the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby on the lead.

Nadal was just as impressive as Charlatan. His second division win came against a much stronger field that included the winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Tampa Bay Derby and Louisiana Derby.

Unlike Charlatan, Nadal, who is certainly fast, is not speed crazy. Baffert has been teaching him to rate in his workouts. Nadal clearly has learned his lessons. The colt stayed just off a solid pace, took a real challenge from King Guillermo in the stretch and stormed home a 3-length winner.

So that’s 7-for-7 for Charlatan and Nadal, but a 4-month wait for the Derby. Baffert would have liked to run the Derby on Saturday. Clearly, his horses were ready and so were we.
But he will have to wait as will we. Meanwhile, the good feelings from Arkansas Derby Day remain.

KENDRICK CARMOUCHE CAN’T WAIT TO RIDE AGAIN

By Dick Jerardi

Kendrick Carmouche is a born storyteller. After 3,257 wins from 19,385 rides over 20 years, the Parx Hall of Fame jockey has some stories to tell.

He has not ridden since March 15 at Aqueduct. He runs and then bikes a few miles near his Delaware home most days, but misses the action of the track.

“I miss it because this is what I do,’’ Carmouche said. “It’s good to spend time with the wife and kids, enjoy their presence while we can because this is a critical situation right now. But I love riding. I could go ride any day. I miss it so much.’’

He misses his time at Aqueduct. He also misses his Mondays and Tuesdays riding at Parx, the track that will always be his favorite.

This weekend, the first weekend in May when we all should be watching the Kentucky Derby, Carmouche will be in Hot Springs, Arkansas., 388 miles from where he grew up in Arnaudville, Louisiana (population, 1,000).

He will be riding Ice Princess for trainer Danny Gargan in a stakes race Friday at Oaklawn Park. He will stay around Saturday to ride Tax for Gargan in the Oaklawn Handicap and longshot Mo Mosa for trainer Mike Maker in the first division of the Arkansas Derby, the closing day of the meet.

It will also bring Carmouche full circle to 2006 when he rode the entire Oaklawn meet, the last time he was at the track.

“I love Arkansas,’’ he said. “It’s like home for me. It’s close to Louisiana, feels like home. The people treat you good. It’s the feeling of being in the country.’’

He is driving to Arkansas, leaving Tuesday, with a planned Thursday arrival. Just the thought of being back in Arkansas brought back wonderful memories from his first year riding in Louisiana at Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs as a 17-year-old, 10-pound apprentice.

Carmouche took 21 rides to win his first race at Delta and then another 40 to win his second at Evangeline in Lafayette, 23 miles from his hometown. He will never forget that second win.

“Let me tell you a story,’’ Carmouche insisted. “I had been getting on this horse, galloping this horse, working this horse, Just Super. I’ll never forget his name.

“I tell my brother, `please, bet this horse.’ I was the 7 horse, I’ll never forget that. This horse went off at 75-1. I told my oldest brother, please bet this horse. I had another buddy that always looked out for me (and always bets on my horses).’’

The brother got to the track too late. The buddy did not. Just Super was, in fact, the 7 horse and just as Carmouche remembered, a chestnut. It was May, 29, 2000, closing on 20 years now. The horse may have been 75-1 when Carmouche came onto the track. After his friend was finished betting, the horse was 57-1.

Just Super won by a nose, 4 1/2 furlongs in 53.80. The friend shared some of the loot.

“Before I left Louisiana to go to Texas to ride, my teddy bear was full of money,’’ Carmouche said.

KIDD BREEDEN WAITING AT HOME, HOPING TO RETURN TO ACTION

By Dick Jerardi

Kyle Frey’s last ride was on March 10 at Parx. Angel Arroyo’s last ride was four days later at Laurel Park.

Those are the two riders that jockey agent John “Kidd’’ Breeden represents at Parx.

“Kidd’’ is now at home in Newark, Delaware “doing stuff at the house that’s been pushed to the side for the last 15 or 20 years, some painting inside, yard work, stuff like that.’’

When a jockey wins a race, he gets 10 percent of the owner’s 60 percent of the total purse. An agent typically gets 25 percent of the jockey’s earnings, but the percentage is negotiable.

Right now, Breeden is getting 25 percent of nothing. He has applied for a government small-business grant. He has also been told that a self-employed worker like him will soon be able to “file for some form of unemployment.’’ Being a jock’s agent is like being a contractor. You are your own boss so it takes time for the safety net to reach you.

Frey is galloping horses at Parx for trainer John Servis. Arroyo is galloping for Trevor Gallimore. So they are in some action, but it’s not afternoon action.

“They’re getting paid a salary I think to work for those guys,’’ Breeden said. “They’re not making the money they could be making, that’s for sure.’’

It’s that way for just about everybody at Parx. It is a very much a community where all the members rely on each other.

The horses are still getting the daily care they require from all the dedicated backstretch workers, but it’s so hard without the rewards that come from racing itself.

So we all wait, try to remember the good times and hope there are more good times coming soon.

It was 15 years ago when Breeden was right there with his jockey Jeremy Rose during Afleet Alex’s great run through the winter and spring of 2005.

“A lot of good memories that’s for sure,’’ Breeden said.

Rose, who bought a pizza shop near where he grew up in Central Pennsylvania, has not ridden since Dec. 7, 2019 at Parx and may be retired. If so, he left behind some lasting accomplishments that included the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, 2,664 wins and mount earnings of nearly $80 million.

Breeden and Rose were an inseparable exacta in 2005. It was a months-long feast that began in Arkansas, moved through Kentucky, Maryland and ended in New York.

It was a time never to be forgotten. Now, as we all wait, we hope for more great times and unforgettable memories. But, at this very moment, we would all just settle for something in the vicinity of normal.